The Spy Who Loved Kent: Ian Fleming’s Secret Clues
Super spy James Bond is renowned for travelling the globe, with shoot-outs in some of the most exotic locations in the world.
The public voted for their favourite 007 stunts, and the top five included daring feats such as skiing off a cliff, a motorboat chase and a gunfight on top of a speeding train.
Author Ian Fleming’s passions lay somewhat closer to home in the county of Kent. Often referred to as the Garden of England, Kent is renowned for its beauty and tranquillity, qualities not generally associated with James Bond! However, the connection with the spy is so strong, thanks to Fleming’s frequent references, that Kent has also become known as James Bond country.
Even the most ardent Bond aficionado may not have spotted Fleming’s nods to his favourite county as they’re so well-disguised in the books and films. But look more closely, and you’ll find a myriad of local places subtly nestled into the high glamour and espionage.
There are so many it’s impossible to list them all, but here’s a handful of the best.
Royal St George’s Golf Club
Golfing fans will recognise this prestigious Sandwich course which has played host to the British Open on many occasions. Ian Fleming was a keen member of the private club, spending weekends on the greens while staying in the now-defunct Guildford Hotel in Sandwich Bay.
The author started visiting the club from the 1930s, but once the war was over, he became an even keener attendee, hopping into his Ford Thunderbird on a Friday evening and racing down from London to fit in 9 or 18 holes before dinner.
Hardly surprising perhaps that such a favourite place of Fleming’s would make an appearance in the books. When Bond plays golf with Auric Gold finger and engages in a game of cat and mouse, it is Royal St George’s Club that Fleming is describing. In the book, it’s called Royal St Mark’s, a slight tweak to the name to provide some anonymity while still being similar enough to trace the inspiration.
Albert Whiting, the head golf pro at St George’s, also appears in the book but as Albert Blacking. He recalls Fleming loving to bet on his round of golf and hating to lose. While James Bond prefers to do his gambling at the casino, it’s another little glimpse of real-life which was captured between the pages!
A little further along the coastline from Sandwich lies St Margaret’s, a quaint but exclusive location that transformed itself from a fishing village to a high-end getaway. Fleming enjoyed staying in another hotel here, the Granville Hotel – the same place Bond and Gala Brand escape to in Moonraker after surviving the cliff-fall.
It’s not just the hotel that features in Moonraker; the towering white cliffs at St Margaret’s are also the location for the Moonraker missile, created by baddie Hugo Drax.
At the end of the shingle beach, there’s a white house with green shutters known as White Cliffs; this was Fleming’s holiday home that he bought from Noel Coward. Fleming used to love peering through a telescope and watching the ships on the Channel. Turn your eyes to the sea and you’ll also be gazing upon the same stretch of water where Drax makes his submarine escape in Moonraker.
Anyone familiar with Kent towns and places might have picked up on some of Fleming’s local references into the Bond books. Many of these were just passing mentions but helped to create a further connection between the spy and the author’s favourite county.
Keep your eyes out for the following:
- As Hugo Drax drives Gala Brand away, the Royal Star Hotel, Gabriels Hill and King Street are all referenced
- Mereworth Castle is named as Bond’s home in the 1967 Casino Royale
- In Diamonds are Forever, the hovercraft that James Bond jumps onto is at the ferry terminal in Dover
- Chatham Dockyard appears in The World Is Not Enough in 1999
- In 2002, the cargo plane scenes in Die Another Day were filmed in Manston Airport, Thanet
Discover James Bond Country for Yourself!
There are many more 007 sights to see around the county of Kent. It may not have featured in the top five most death-defying stunts, but Kent is right at the heart of the books and films, so a trip around the county is a must for any Bond fan.